Topliss, William Henry (1906-1978)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

WILLIAM HENRY TOPLISS : born in Castle Gresley, Burton-on-Trent, on 6th April 1906. On moving to Rainworth, when he was young, his father commenced a Primitive Methodist cause in the home. To the meetings came Ethel, whom William Henry married in 1933. He was educated at the Brunts School, Mansfield, and after three years trainee teaching offered for the ministry in 1926. Trained at Hartley College, he served in the following circuits: Harringay, London (Harrow and Northwood), London (Lee), Cannock Chase, Buxton, Sedbergh, Bloxwich, and Whitehaven.

He served on the Ministers’ Retirement Fund and the Auxiliary Fund Committees and held several district offices After active supernumeraryship in Malmesbury, he retired in 1973 to Shareshill to be near his son. Thus he and his wife returned to the St. John’s Church, Bloxwich, which stands as his memorial. He brought about the fusion of three congregations into one and, with their whole-hearted support, disposed of ageing property, and completed in 1966 an imposing new building and manse.

Three great assets enabled him to be an effective preacher, pastor, and administrator —a commanding presence, a marked business ability, and a whimsical humour. Relating well to his people, who held him in great affection, he was an inspiration to those he served, and a source of strength and wise counsel to his colleagues. Above all he had a deep faith, sustained by careful thought and humble prayer. It was most evident as knowingly he faced death, seven weeks after a stomach operation, with such triumphant confidence that those who visited to strengthen him were strengthened by him. 

He died on 14th March 1978 in the seventy-second year of his age and the forty-ninth year of his ministry.


William was born on 6 April 1906 at Castle Gresley, Derbyshire, to parents John Topliss, a colliery boiler fireman (1911) and Sarah Louise Chadbourne.

He married Ethel May Chapple (1905-2000) in the summer of 1933 at Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Birth records identify one child.

  • John Michael (b1935)

William died on 14 March 1978 at Shareshill, Wolverhampton.


  • Hartley
  • 1929 Harringay &c
  • 1933 London, Harrow
  • 1938 London, Lee
  • 1941 Cannock Chase
  • 1947 Buxton
  • 1953 Sedburgh
  • 1959 Bloxwich
  • 1966 Whitehaven
  • 1970 Malmesbury (S)


Methodist Minutes 1978/95

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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